Loving Fathers, Little Boys, and Big Faith
By Michael LeasersFilmgoers get a rare treat next weekend when Little Boy opens in theaters nationwide April 24. Too few and far between are four-quadrant live-action films with exceptional production values, Academy Award-nominated actors, and a moving story that inspires and enlightens audiences.Produced by Eduardo Verástegui, producer and star of Bella, Little Boy revolves around the powerful bond between a father (Michael Rapaport) and his young son (Jakob Salvati) in a small California town in the midst of the Second World War. Similar in its appeal to another WWII fable about a father-son bond, Life Is Beautiful, Little Boy opens with the father leaving home to fight in the Pacific theater. The Japanese soon take him prisoner, and his distraught son Pepper comes to believe that if his faith is large enough, he can will his father home to safety. To help build Pepper’s faith, a local priest (Tom Wilkinson) suggests Pepper perform actions such as feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and befriending a local Japanese-American (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) whom many people in the town have shunned because of his heritage. Verástegui has a small role in the film himself as a young priest, as do Kevin James as the town doctor and David Henrie, who plays Pepper’s older brother.James enjoyed filming Little Boy with Verástegui so much that he cast Verástegui as the head of security at a Las Vegas hotel in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, which opens in theaters this weekend, a week before Little Boy. Though a broad comedy, the Paul Blart film focuses on the importance of family bonds as well. James also cast Henrie as a potential love interest for Blart’s daughter.Henrie, best known for his role in Disney’s Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place series, took these family themes to heart when crafting his own first short film about a father-son relationship, Catch, with assistance from executive producer Verástegui.In addition to promoting father-son bonds, Verástegui’s Little Boy aspires to encourage others to complete their own service action list (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the imprisoned and sick, etc.) and thus make an impact that will last far beyond the two hours spent at the movie theater.